Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Crusing 'Brilliance of seas'

'A fortnight on the sea! Just Amazing!!'

Cruising offers an exquisite royal retreat with fun, parties and cool breezes swaying the cruise all over.

This September entrepreneur Malika Ghosh went along with business partner R K Dhawan on massive 13-storyed European 'Brilliance of seas' cruise that commenced from Barcelona port.

she puts it as: "Its been an incredible experience. I might fall short of words. Warmth and affection showered by the hospitality staff on cruise was unbeatable." Most of the staff members were Indians but only these two Indians were as guest on board. The ship took tourists around Europe: Monte Carlo, Pisa, Rome, Athens, Naples and Livorno. Ship would halt for 7-10 hours at each destination for tourist to enjoy site seeing and shopping spree.

Initially they were scared. Actually, there's a story to it: she narrates, "You know when we boarded the cruise, at the port, our passports were deposited and we were given sea passes." While boarding the ship Mallika dropped her passport. Luckily a white lady saw the pouch of passport dropping from her handbag. Mallika recalls, "She kept on calling me but in vain. Finally, she caught hold of me by my shoulder. I was zapped!! When the white lady handed me my passport, I was touched. Thanks was not just enough, I could have landed in a big trouble." The recollection of the incident still gets her goosepimps.

Entertainment is what makes cruise a rage. No doubt it was lavish and memorable. You name it... they have it... Golf course, casino, walking track, swimming pool, billiards and comprehensive shopping complex. "If amidst Mediterranean sea one gets golf course what more on earth you want." Every floor was exclusive in its own right: 11the floor had 24-hour buffet, dining hall on 4th floor, 12th floor was a walking track and 13th floor had golf course.

To spread happiness around the cruise staff come up with sweet charming gestures. Mallika chortles, "Rooms service boy would daily twist and turn a towel into some animal or other. It would force us to smile from the bottom of my heart. As we were only Indians, for 3-4 days the head chef, an Indian, Harcharan Sawhney specially prepared desi (Indian) food for us."

Ball dance, theme parties, operas and games were everyday feature to keep the travelers amused. As the CD ends, Mallika with tears in here eyes said, ?Kind of care and love extended to one and all, I would love to go on cruise every year.? Around 2,200 avid sea voyagers were on the ship. "Some fickle minded people told us that cabins might stink. Believe me, we didn't suffer any sea sickness," says Ghosh.
To recollect everything and freshen up her memory Mallika takes me along on a vitual trip to the cruise. She plays on memorable CD in which glimpses of her cruising has been trapped:

Natives of different countries: America, Australia, Africa and our two Indians were having a blast. One could see a relaxing happy smile on each face. "See how happily we are enjoying the meal!During meals, we shared table with eight other people, most of them were from England." With this trip close to her heart Malllika stil excanges e-mails with her the British pals.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Changing Indian wedding scene - From loud-n-lavish to up close and personal

Indian weddings are known to be a bizarre and lavish affair. With dream destination weddings are latest vogue, time is not far when they will be a passe.
Tired of opulent Indian weddings, brides and grooms prefer moving to a holiday spot with a selective guest list. Serene locales of Kasuali, silver-sand beaches of Goa or a farm house in a retro-rural setup make a few popular choice. The idea is, instead of spending fat amount on unending guest-list, why not enjoy every penny with up close and personal near and dear ones. Recently Kasauli, a renowned hill station in India witnessed a pompous wedding bash. A Delhi-based Sanwarian came all the way from to Kasauli with 250 affluent guests to get married. Entire Kasuali was booked to make guests comfortable. Indian wedding planner, Saguna Jain says, “People had enough of extravagant marriages. Escaping to an exotic destination with a caravan of up close and personal ones for solemnizing a wedding is the trend of the day.”
Ajit Tejpal of Kuoni Travel confirms, “Actually, some prefer wedding to be kept as a personal affair. So, taking niche crowd to regaling hotspot for a wedding is catching up.”
Once you book a hotel, just chill! While you take a stroll up and down the vales or enjoy a beach volley-ball, the hotel staff along with wedding planners take care of all arrangements: mehendi, catering, videography, parlour, entertainment of guest and even souvenirs for guest.
But don’t forget to fly with necessary traditional stuff like puja samagari. And, do take along your family pandit to the wedding trip.
Besides exotic hillocks of Kasauli, tranquil and relaxing lawns overlooking the seaside five star property of Goa is a rage. people go ga-ga over getting married amidst the best of nature. A decent gathering of 100 invitees amounts to INR 6-7 lakh for the grand five-star wedding coupled with refreshing holiday. Just a perfect deal!
Director of Wedding Planners Goa, Ranjan quips, “Goa is a hot wedding destination. Missing the natural beauty, lots of north-Indians come down to the city of sun-n-sand. As far as business is concerned, this season is happening and hectic.”

vancouver through the eyes of an Indian

Gear up for an adventure of lifetime with Manjeet Singh... He is going to take us on a ride to Vancouver, famous for its big-city lifestyle and outdoor fun in such cheek-by-jowl proximity. Skiing in the morning... sailing in the afternoon...and back to town in time for a cocktail at three.. man that's what you call enjoying every bit of it!
Mention the 'beach' and North Indians, like Manjeet, go nutty over it...He cannot help tittering, “Beaches are cool and happening in Vancouver. It's awesome to watch people playing football, volleyball and sunbathing.” Beyond rocky-n-sandy beaches of Vancouver, the clean and green gardens, systematic way of living, spic-n-span environment and disciplined citizens impressed Singh.
During his Canadian trip, he was accompanied by friend Vijay Mahajan to Victoria City. They stayed there for a week. Manjeet recalls, “Victoria is a small and thinly populated city in Vancouver Island, still its well-organised. It's world-renowned for its mannerism.”
Five-days sloughing, then two days die-hard party culture of Victoria fascinated the two friends. It's a city that loves to entertain. Sports and live music take precedence, with theatre very close behind and a healthy comedy scene to boot. "Natives on weekend are willing to doff the bike shorts, throw on their best t-shirt, and go out on the town," he admires.
The two friends had a blast exploring the best of Victoria, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast! Famous for green spaces, counter-cultural and cosmopolitan neighbourhoods, Vancouver is a tourist delight. "Gastown, the city's original settlement is another hotspot, now it's being transformed into a gussied-up historical quarter," Manjeet adds.
He was at home with two small cities that can be called mini-India - Sari and Delta -as they could smell Punjabi tint in the air with road signs mentioned in English and Punjabi. "There are temples and gurdwaras all over. Children are taught Punjabi and acknowledged about Punjabi culture in these temples and gurdwaras." The affinity in Indians outside India is amazing. "May be they are more to the soil while living away from it."
When Punjabi language has reached Vancouver, how can Punjabi food and Bhangra be left behind. “Punjabi delicacies are readily available at nook and corner. Not only Indians abroad but even Canadians are crazy for Indian cuisines. Mouthwatering Continental and Chinese foodstuff available there are also hard to resist.”
What Manjeet liked the most in Canada is cleanliness and environment awareness. That's what he wants to bring down to India. Manjeet is amazed that the place is actually dirt free. "You can wear a shirt for two consecutive days and the collars will still be neat," he exclaims.